March 18, 2008

Lesniak: Greed, Arrogance and Abuse of Power

Submitted by Bruce Paterson

Here is a Paul Harvey “The rest of the story” moment. But instead of something inspirational or uplifting, this unfortunately reveals greed, arrogance and abuse of power.

As you may be aware, the NJ state legislature is considering cutting state aid to small towns under 10,000 population of which my Garwood is among one of them. This in order to address our state’s fiscal crisis problems. An elected Garwood boro official expressing concern for Garwood’s constituents reached out to the local senators and assemblymen covering this area. The assemblymen showed compassion. However, one senator, Senator Lesniak, decided to write an editorial in the March 6 edition of the Star Ledger New Jersey section. Although the town wasn't mentioned by name he noted our .8 square mile size and the loss of $350,000 in aid and used our concerned “boro official” and our Garwood as a example of how small towns don't want to help themselves. He said we had a large development proposed that would bring in large ratables but our planning board had turned it down, with Senator Lesniak stating, “this town chose higher property taxes because development proposals weren't quite what it wanted”.

And now “the rest of the story”. The development which Senator Lesniak claimed was beneficial to Garwood was located on a back neighborhood off the main streets. Where 9 houses are allowed the developer proposed to put 47 apartment units in a 3 story building with underground parking for 95 automobiles. Indeed, Garwood would have garnered $400,000 in ratables, but at what cost? The neighborhood is zoned for two family homes and is mostly cape cods. But the real dirt lies beneath this project. This developer was using a local legal firm as his application attorney. Three months before the application was to be heard, the applicant changed his law firm to a firm by the name of “Weiner Lesniak”. Senator Lesniak is the principle. Two months before the hearing, a $7,500 donation was given by the project applicant to Senator Lesniak’s political committee. It appeared to Garwood that Senator Lesniak was possibly strong-arming himself into this application to make good money off of the applicant and Garwood. He then sent his best lawyer to the hearing but alas, Garwood planning board turned it down.

A few years ago, Senator Lesniak bragged to the Star Ledger that he is the “political boss” of the area. He “controls” elections, political appointments and which developments are for the towns in his so-called kingdom. He has become quite good at his destruction on the residents all to his financial gain. He has wrested control of our Rahway valley Sewerage Authority over the years. His Weiner Lesniak legal billings went from $80,000 to $500,000 in 10 years, all paid by tax monies. He was able to manipulate his nephew into the Union County Manager job, now paying $155,000/year. This fellow had no experience or education for this position 12 years ago and still doesn't. The nephew’s incompetence has allowed the county taxes to skyrocket 70% since year 2000 as pay to play, cronyism, lawsuits and nepotism run rampant at the county. And collateral damage occurs as the county manager’s wife had a good paying county job and even his mother was on the county payroll, where another hard pressed senior could have had that job.

Senator Lesniak has feathered his nest lucratively for himself, his law firm and his relatives, thanks to his corrupting the system and the abuse of his Senatorial powers. How many other “small towns” are the subject of his greed and manipulation? How many towns have refused his self-serving greed and now have his wrath for their resistance, going so far as him using Garwood as some kind of example? And now you have the rest of the story.

Their wish isn't our command
Posted by Ray Lesniak March 06, 2008 10:22AM
Categories: Policy Watch, Politics
A famous philosopher once sang, "The times they are a-changin'." Another sang, "You can't always get what you want. But if you try sometimes, you might find you get what you need."

Those profound words came to mind recently in the aftermath of Gov. Jon Corzine's budget proposed cuts.

There's no question that gov­ernment is too big and the cost of government has made living in
New Jersey too expensive.

But to ease that burden, we have to start looking at local gov­ernments, not just state expenditures.

Willie Sutton wouldn't be plan­ning a heist at a 7-Eleven. He would go where the money is -- in
this case, school boards and local governments.

The state's operating budget is $4.4 billion. Another $23 billion, or about 73 percent of the budget, is spent at the local level, primarily for schools, local governments, hos­pitals and property tax relief in the form of rebate checks.

Add to that the $21 billion spent and raised at the local level and you quickly see where the best op­portunities are for cutting spend­ing.

Oversight of local spending, along with restructuring of small municipalities and school districts
to eliminate unnecessary adminis­trative and capital expenditures, is required if we are serious about making New Jersey a more afforda­ble place to live.

The state should continue to provide local governments and boards of education what they
need. But what about what they want? Case in point:

A local official complained to me about losing $350,000 from Cor­zine's proposed budget cuts.

I pointed out that the town turned down a development pro­posal for age-restricted housing --
i.e., no school-age children -- which would have brought $400,000 yearly tax revenues to the community.

The proposal was too dense, the official responded. We wanted fewer units.

Don't expect the taxpayers of the state to pay for what you want, I explained.

The official countered: The four-story buildings proposed would have required the purchase of a
bigger firetruck, which we can't af­ford.

What? I asked. Your town is 0.8 square miles and you have your own fire department? An agree­
ment for fire protection with sur­rounding communities would save money, lower response time and potentially save lives and proper­ties.

It's a volunteer department; they're all residents, voters and very vocal. They would complain,
the official said, so we need the $350,000 from the state.

This town chose higher prop­erty taxes because development proposals weren't quite what it
wanted. The town also chose higher property taxes and less pro­tection from fire hazards because it didn't want to give up its own fire department.

When I told this story to others, they all thought I was speaking about their town.

The option of having state tax­payers pay for what local residents want, rather than what they need, is gone -- and not coming back.

"You can't always get what you want. But if you try sometimes, you might find you get what you need."

Thank you, Sir Mick.

"The times, they are a-chan­gin'." Thank you, Mr. Dylan.